Registration is Open for Rural Strengths and Challenges Virtual Seminar Series

Registration is now open for the Health and Wellbeing: Rural Strengths and Challenges Virtual Seminar Series, hosted by the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health Research Committee, with representation from the UK Colleges of Health Sciences, Public Health, Social Work and Medicine.

This seminar series will explore and discuss the intersection between science, community culture and traditions, policy and politics on the long-term health, healthcare, community participation, and quality of life of individuals living in rural communities. Not only will the challenges and barriers be discussed, but also the local supports and “Bright Spots” that are examples of how to get the job done.

Registration links and speaker information for each session are detailed below.  All events are from 2- 3pm, EST.  For questions, contact Dr. Patrick Kitzman at or Melissa Slone at

What is rural and rural well-being?

Feb. 3, 2021: Myths/Cultural Aspects around Rural Well-being

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Randy Wykoff, MD, MPH & TM became the founding dean, College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in 2006 and, concurrently, the Executive Director of the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research in 2019. He is a physician, board certified in both Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, with additional training and certification in Tropical Medicine.

Michael Meit serves as Director of Research and Programs for the East Tennessee State University Center for Rural Health Research, Senior Fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, and Deputy Director for ETSU’s HRSA-funded Rural Health Research Center, the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center. Michael began his public health career with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, followed by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

March 3, 2021: Interventions- Disability and Accessibility

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Patrick Kitzman, PhD, MSPT is a Professor in the UK Physical Therapy Program where his teaching and research focus on individuals with disabilities related to conditions such as spinal cord injury (SCI), stroke, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). In 2008 he co-founded the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN), a network of people with SCI, stroke and TBI, healthcare providers, educators, researchers, state and local organizations and other community stakeholders committed to the health and well-being of people with disabilities, especially those in rural and underserved communities. Since its inception, Dr. Kitzman has served as the Director of KARRN.

March 10, 2021: Interventions- Kentucky Homeplace Program
(Rescheduled from February 17, 2021)

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William Mace Baker is the Director of the Kentucky Homeplace Program at the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, KY. He directs the Kentucky Homeplace program which consists of 23 community health workers (CHWs) covering 30 counties in the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky. He facilitates the Kentucky Homeplace CHW training.

March 17, 2021: Panel of community and academic partners

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Jason Jones is a staff member for the UK Human Development Institute as an advocacy specialist and as the project coordinator for Kentucky Works Partnerships in Employment as well as the Southeast ADA Affiliate for Kentucky. Advocacy for people with paralysis is very personal to Jones, who was a four-sport athlete in high school before an accident involving the high-jump resulted in his becoming a quadriplegic in 1990. Jones co-founded the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury (KCSCI) in 2012. The purpose of the KCSCI is to gather individuals with SCI from around the Commonwealth to join in the discussion of critical quality of life issues that are important to everyone.

Ramona Carper, PT, DPT is an Assistant professor at the UK College of Health Sciences. Her areas of teaching include ethics and physical therapy administration. Prior to her appointment in the college, she spent 20+ years working in a rural outpatient physical therapy facility where she gained additional experience in settings including acute care, school-based pediatrics, SNF, home health and onsite industry. She was also involved in management, having functioned as a clinic director and co-owner of the business. She is also active in the American Physical Therapy Association, where she currently serves the Kentucky chapter as the legislative chair and has previously served as the chapter president.

Scott Lockard is the Public Health Director of the Kentucky River District Health Department (KRDHD). He has over 30 years’ experience in public health. Prior to coming to KRDHD, he served as the Director of the Clark County Health Department for 12 years. He has also served as adjunct faculty in the College of Social Work at Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky. He is a 2006 graduate of the Kentucky Public Health Leadership Institute and a 2011 graduate of the National Public Health Leadership Institute. He is a past president of the Kentucky Public Health Association and the Kentucky Health Departments Association.

Health Issues and Rural Disparities

 March 31, 2021: Kentucky’s Preventable Diseases and Key Risk Factors

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Dr.  Margaret “Margo” Riggs serves as a Captain in the US Public Health Service and is the Healthy Communities Director and CDC Liaison with Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) where she leads coordination for health improvement in Appalachia KY by preventing diabetes, obesity and substance use. Dr. Riggs has been working in domestic and international public health for 16 years. Prior to SOAR she was an Associate Director at CDC Zambia working with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) focused on establishment of the Zambia National Public Health Institute. She has helped with public health capacity building nationally as a CDC Career Epidemiology Field Officer (CEFO) supervisor for 30 senior epidemiologists assigned around the country.  She also served as acting Territorial Epidemiologist for the U.S. Virgin Islands and has participated in several large public health response efforts to include: COVID-19 pandemic, Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa, Superstorm Sandy in NJ and the Haiti Earthquake.  She also served CDC Epidemiologist with the CEFO Program assigned to the Kentucky Department for Public Health in Frankfort, KY. In this a role she worked across Kentucky responding to natural disasters and outbreaks, building environmental health capacity and helping to improve overall health by getting Kentucky kids outdoors thru relationships between local health staff and environmental educators.  Dr.  Riggs began her career with CDC in 2005 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, OH. She graduated with all degrees from the University of Florida, served five years in the US Army and grew up in Northern Kentucky.

April 14, 2021: Interventions- Cancer Research in Rural Kentucky

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Robin Vanderpool, DrPH, is chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). As branch chief, Dr. Vanderpool leads the development of health communication research initiatives in areas such as patient-provider communication, cancer risk communication, social/new media, and connected health. Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Vanderpool was a professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky (UK) and associate director for community outreach and engagement at the UK Markey Cancer Center. Dr. Vanderpool earned her DrPH from UK; her MPH from Western Kentucky University; and her BS from Centre College.

Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH, is a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of Kentucky.   He received his PhD in Public Health Education from the University of Tennessee and an MPH in Biostatistics from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Since coming to UK in 2001, Dr. Dignan has led several NIH-funded projects designed to reduce the cancer burden in Appalachian Kentucky.  His current research is focused on colorectal and cervical cancer. 

April 28, 2021: Interventions- Substance Use Disorder in Rural Kentucky

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Michele Staton, PhD, MSW, is a Professor in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Department of Behavioral Science.  She is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. Her research focuses on increasing access to evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders among justice-involved individuals in rural communities.

Frances Feltner, DNP, MSN, RN, is the Director of the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, located in Hazard, Kentucky. She also has joint appointments as adjunct faculty in the College of Nursing and College of Health Sciences and as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Family and Community Medicine Department. Dr. Feltner has more than 40 years of experience in rural health care. Much of her work has focused on improving the health of and empowering rural communities to directly address the health disparities that affect them so seriously. Her research includes exploring the social determinants of health and their effect on health outcomes, finding effective linkages between vulnerable populations and the health care system, and examining the role and impact of community health workers. Dr. Feltner received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Kentucky, College of Nursing and a Masters in Advanced Practice Rural Public Health Nursing Administration from Eastern Kentucky University.

Melissa Slone is the Research Inter-Disciplinary Director for the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health. She has over 25 years of experience working in rural communities. The majority of her work has focused on ensuring access to mental and physical health needs for vulnerable populations.

Angela Carman, DrPH, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, College of Public Health and a public health management consultant to local health departments and hospitals. A native Kentuckian, Dr. Carman received her DrPH from the University of Kentucky, MBA from Eastern Kentucky University and BS in Business Administration from Berea College. Her research interests focus on the practice of public health. Prior to UK, Dr. Carman served as critical-access hospital CEO.

May 5, 2021: Panel of community and academic partners

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Gene Detherage is a person thriving in long-term recovery from SUD since July 2014. Beginning in 2015 Gene began working at the Morehead Inspiration Center and operated the housing and facilities management at the Genesis Recovery KY Center from 2016 to 2019, both part of the phenomenally successful Recovery Kentucky network. Through his work at The Fletcher Group and service on the Board of Director’s for Frontier Housing, a FAHE affiliate, Gene has expansive knowledge and experience of the Social Model of Recovery, affordable housing, and facilities management. Gene received his Master’s in Public Administration from Morehead State University in 2020 which gives him a unique edge for navigating complex regulatory environments and establishing expansive and meaningful systems support networks.

Key Douthitt, MD, is native of Eastern Kentucky and has practiced in the rural area for 10 years, over 3 of which have been at a Federally Qualified Health Center. He has a firm grasp of the social environment, the social determinants of health facing individuals in the area and organizations providing services in the area. Dr. Douthitt created a diabetes clinic because of a lack of endocrinology services in the area and for the past two years has been treating difficult to control diabetics in this clinic using a multidisciplinary team approach.